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Clifford Houston

Microbiologist Clifford Wayne Houston was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on December 3, 1949. Houston attended Oklahoma State University where he earned his B.S. degree in microbiology and chemistry in 1972, and his M.S. degree in biology in 1974. He went on to receive his Ph.D. degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Oklahoma in 1979. Upon completion, Houston was awarded a James W. McLaughlin postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB).

Houston began at UTMB in 1981 as an assistant professor. He was then promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1987, and became Full Professor and Associate Vice President for Educational Outreach in 1991. As a researcher at UTMB, Houston focused on the role that bacterial toxins play in the pathogenesis of disease. His findings have been published in academic journals such as the Journal of Bacteriology, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology and the Journal of Infectious Diseases. As an administrator, Houston participated in the management development program at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University in 1994. In 1997, Houston was named the Herman Barnett Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology. He also served as deputy associate administrator for education in the Office of Education at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. from 2003 to 2005. At NASA, he provided day-to-day oversight and guidance for three primary divisions: elementary and secondary education, higher education and informal education.

Houston has been active in many professional organizations, including serving as chair of the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students Steering & Planning Committee, and chair of the American Society for Microbiology Education Board. He also sat on the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences External Advisory Council. In 2011, Houston was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to the National Advisory Board for Bio-security.

Throughout his career, Houston has received numerous honors and awards. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2000. Houston was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 1997; and, in 2006, he became the first African American elected as president of the American Society for Microbiology – the world’s largest professional biological research organization. Houston also continued to devote the time to mentoring and youth outreach. He established many educational programs and activities in the Galveston, Texas community as well as across the country to enhance the interest of young students in mathematics and science.

Clifford W. Houston was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 31, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.030

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/31/2013

Last Name

Houston

Maker Category
Middle Name

W.

Occupation
Schools

Oklahoma State University

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Clifford

Birth City, State, Country

Oklahoma City

HM ID

HOU02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

12/3/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Galveston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak, Potatoes (Baked)

Short Description

Microbiologist Clifford Houston (1949 - ) , the first African American elected as president of the American Society for Microbiology, is the Herman Barnett Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at University of Texas Medical Branch.

Employment

Oklahoma State University

Langston University

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

University of Texas Medical Branch

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Favorite Color

Browns, Earth Tones, Grays

Timing Pairs
0,0:2924,27:3582,35:4146,42:4522,47:7436,67:8094,75:8752,83:9974,109:10726,120:14486,170:15050,177:56644,682:62236,698:66232,826:68230,861:69784,895:70154,900:71338,920:71856,928:72374,937:72892,945:74298,964:75926,992:81368,1022:81664,1027:86622,1112:87806,1129:88102,1134:89138,1155:89434,1160:95263,1204:102390,1289:104653,1332:104945,1342:105894,1359:106989,1386:107427,1393:110639,1438:113530,1449$0,0:728,4:3920,55:5972,81:6580,91:7644,108:9316,184:10000,194:25640,396:26280,405:27000,416:27560,424:28200,433:30520,464:31320,481:31800,488:32520,499:33240,511:37661,522:39715,540:40505,551:41769,556:43191,580:43507,587:44929,628:45482,633:46509,649:47062,657:48405,686:48958,697:49353,703:51565,744:58206,791:59146,803:62329,829:64606,855:65497,865:66388,876:66982,883:68665,906:72615,928:74915,952:76525,975:84490,1041:85458,1062:86338,1075:95490,1147:96293,1159:96658,1165:97023,1171:99359,1215:99724,1221:103520,1298:105856,1340:111460,1370:117834,1523:120426,1560:140220,1749:140580,1754:142560,1795:160820,2024:162978,2056:165053,2086:165883,2099:167958,2126:173676,2157:174356,2170:177008,2217:177620,2227:177960,2233:182544,2284:186740,2322:187250,2330:187590,2335:188100,2343:189035,2354:189375,2359:193200,2413:193540,2418:195070,2444:195665,2453:196005,2458:196515,2465:202084,2473:204220,2501:205021,2511:205377,2516:209115,2551:209471,2556:213302,2581:214382,2591:214958,2603:216542,2628:219494,2708:220070,2726:222374,2765:222662,2770:226558,2780:228556,2806:231442,2856:241964,2992:242612,3002:251624,3113:252443,3123:252807,3128:254536,3148:255173,3158:257840,3168:258152,3173:261116,3231:261506,3237:261974,3245:262676,3252:263534,3265:265952,3301:266654,3312:267044,3318:270480,3332:270680,3337:271080,3347:271380,3354:271730,3362:274088,3388:274496,3395:274768,3400:276020,3412
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Clifford Houston's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Clifford Houston lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Clifford Houston describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Clifford Houston talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Clifford Houston describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Clifford Houston talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Clifford Houston talks about his parents' jobs

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Clifford Houston describes his parents and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Clifford Houston talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Clifford Houston describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Clifford Houston describes his childhood homes

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Clifford Houston talks about the Gordon Oaks sub-division of Oklahoma City

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Clifford Houston describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Clifford Houston talks about his growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Clifford Houston describes his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Clifford Houston talks about his elementary and middle schools

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Clifford Houston talks about his high school and the demographics of Oklahoma City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Clifford Houston talks about his childhood research lab

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Clifford Houston talks about his interest in medicine while

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Clifford Houston talks about meeting his first role model

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Clifford Houston talks about his elementary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Clifford Houston talks about his science experiment on the behavioral effects of removing adrenal glands from rats

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Clifford Houston talks about his adrenal gland experiment

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Clifford Houston talks about his involvement in the church and his interest in music growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Clifford Houston talks about his high school experience

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Clifford Houston talks about scientific breakthroughs and his interest in science fiction during his formative years

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Clifford Houston talks about his childhood jobs and career aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Clifford Houston talks about his extracurricular activities at Northeast High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Clifford Houston talks about his high school science projects

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Clifford Houston talks about his decision to go to college

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Clifford Houston talks about Oklahoma State University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Clifford Houston talks about his experience teaching at Langston University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Clifford Houston talks about his master's thesis on the isolation of plant enzymes

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Clifford Houston describes his doctoral research on the pathogenicity of bacteria

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Clifford Houston talks about flesh-eating bacteria

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Clifford Houston talks about his post-doctoral mentor and his post-doctoral student

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Clifford Houston talks about Herman Barnett

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Clifford Houston reflects on his experiences with racism in Oklahoma

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Clifford Houston reflects on his experiences with racism

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Clifford Houston talks about his work with NASA

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Clifford Houston talks about the microbiological risks of long-term space travel and NASA's spin-off technologies

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Clifford Houston talks about deficiencies with U.S. primary and secondary education

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Clifford Houston talks about his experience as president of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM)

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Clifford Houston talks about his transition from research into administration

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Clifford Houston talks about his work at the University of Texas Medical Branch

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Clifford Houston talks about his student, Monique Ferguson

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Clifford Houston talks about microbiology

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Clifford Houston talks about the lack of conflict between creationism and evolution

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Clifford Houston talks about his future plans and interests in the field of microbiology

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Clifford Houston talks about receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Clifford Houston reflects upon his life choices

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Clifford Houston talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Clifford Houston reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Clifford Houston talks about his son

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Clifford Houston talks about the T-STEM Center at the University of Texas Medical Branch

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Clifford Houston talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Clifford Houston describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

11$2

DATitle
Clifford Houston talks about his science experiment on the behavioral effects of removing adrenal glands from rats
Clifford Houston talks about his work with NASA
Transcript
Okay. So, now, at John F. Kennedy Junior High School, was there a special teacher there that you remember?$$That's, so that would be, wait a minute, seventh through the eighth grade. I think so, yeah, but I'm blanking on her name. I probably had a crush on her, too (laughter). But she helped me with science. And she helped me with my first science project. I can't call her name right now. But all the guys just thought she was the most beautiful woman they'd ever seen (laughter). Of course, we were just in the seventh grade. But I remember she spent time with me working on a science project, and it was a very sophisticated project. So, you're asking me--so, but at that time I was still doing stuff down in my parents' [Mae Frances Hanley and Edgar Houston] basement at this other house. And that's where I really had the rats and stuff like that. And so, she helped me with this project where I was working with the adrenal glands in rats, to determine, you know, if you remove the adrenal glands, if that will have an impact on them in terms of their behavior. Because the adrenal glands, that's the gland that produces the hormone that tells you when to either run or fight. You know, it makes you stronger than you normally would be. So, when you're challenged, that gland kicks in and produces a hormone that will allow you to run faster and allow you to do things that you normally wouldn't do under peaceful conditions.$You spent a time as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Education Programs in the Office of Education at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration [NASA].$$I was definitely an associate administrator.$$Okay, associate administrator.$$Then that's like two levels below the administrator, which is the highest position at the headquarters. There, I was in charge of all of the educational programs across the country that are implemented at the seven space centers that are spread across the country, as well as in charge of museums associated with space. For example, we have a space center in Houston [Texas] which is just adjacent to the Johnson Space Center. And there are several of these types of museums. We call them informal education venues. And it's a way in which you educate the public. And so, I was in charge of that as well as secondary education, higher education and informal education. And I was also over the Office of Technology and product production at NASA headquarters.$$Okay. So, you did that for two years, right?$$I did that for two years. It was a good experience, from 2003 to basically 2005. And the interesting thing about that was, I was in the middle of packing to leave Texas to move up to Washington, D.C. [District of Columbia]. And on the day that I was packing--the movers were at my house to move me to D.C., and that was the day that the shuttle crashed [Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster, February 1, 2003]. And I can remember, my son and I were sitting on the bed looking at what was going on, and it just exploded. So, my son paused, and he says, "Well, are you still going?" And I said "Yes, I'm going to still go." And so, I went there and the morale was pretty low at headquarters. Sean O'Keefe was the administrator of NASA at that time. And we were in a mode. Immediately, we were in a mode of returning the flight. In other words, getting to the point where we could start flying the shuttle again. As you know, it's currently, it's now retired as a spacecraft. But I got involved with not only doing my job in terms of the Education Office, but also advising NASA in terms of what could be the impact from a microbiological point of view of long-term space travel. As you might imagine, the majority of the workforce at NASA are engineers. And many of them have no idea about what happens if you have long-term human space flight, and what impact that might have in terms of your immune system, which long-term exposure to radiation will cause a immunocompromised state in your body where you lose your function, your immune functions to protect you against infections.$$So, if you don't use them, if they're not being used, they start--$$No. The radiation is killing the antibodies in your body. It causes mutations in genes that would then harm your function of your immune system. Your immune system is what protects you from getting sick, getting infected. So, that's one thing. But at the same time, the long-term exposure to radiation has your immune system, in terms of suppressing your immunity; the long-term exposure to radiation will cause mutations and germs, or bacteria, that will cause them to become more virulent. In other words, cause them to become stronger and tougher organisms, and enhances its ability to cause disease. So, with those two things working together, then that makes people more susceptible.

Julius Jackson

Julius H. Jackson was born in 1944. He is the middle child of Virgil Lawrence Jackson, Sr. and Julia Esther Jones. He has two siblings, an older brother Virgil and a younger sister, Esther. Jackson received his A.B. and Ph.D. degrees in microbiology from the University of Kansas in 1966 and 1969, respectively. Jackson completed a National Institute of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellowship from 1969 to 1971 at Purdue University. Following completion of the NIH fellowship, he continued to work at Purdue University as a postdoctoral research associate. In 1972, Jackson accepted an appointment at the historically black Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee where he worked in a number of positions that included the chair of the microbiology department. After leaving Meharry, he became the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Clark Atlanta University.

In 1987, he joined the faculty of Michigan State University as a professor in the Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics and as Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Affairs. Jackson directs the J-Lab, a research laboratory that incorporates mathematical and computer models to analyze the function of bacterial genes in cells. His work maps bacterial genomes to see how genes carry out the physiological processes of organisms. He has been an active mentor to students in his lab as well as a strong advocate for the importance of integrating math into study of biology. Further, Jackson has published numerous papers on the latter in addition to bacterial genomics. Beyond his research interests, he has been the director of several programs that recruit, support, and provide professional development to doctoral students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. These programs include the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Program and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), the latter supports underrepresented groups in these fields.

From 1995 to 1997, Jackson was the Director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Because of his research on model bacterial genomes, he has served on several panels that include the National Institute of Health (NIH), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBM), and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Jackson received the William A. Hinton Research Training Award from the ASM for his work on bacterial genomes in 2000. He lives in E. Lansing, Michigan with his wife Patricia Ann Herring. He has three children, Rahsaan, Felicia, and Sajida with his first wife Jalanda Lazelle Smith who is deceased.

Julius Jackson was interviewed by on October 24, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.179

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/24/2012

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

University of Kansas

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Julius

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

JAC30

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring, Summer

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana, San Francisco, California

Favorite Quote

Who Steals My Purse Steals Trash; 'Tis Something, Nothing; 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has Been Slave To Thousands; But He That Filches From Me My Good Name Robs Me Of That Which Not Enriches Him, And Makes Me Poor Indeed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

1/6/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

East Lansing

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Kansas City Barbecue

Short Description

Microbiologist Julius Jackson (1944 - ) is a professor of Microbiology and Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Affairs at Michigan State University whose research examines bacterial genomes to see how genes carry out the physiological processes of the organisms.

Employment

National Institute of Health (NIH)

Purdue University

Meharry Medical College

Clark Atlanta University

Michigan State University

National Science Foundation (NSF)

American Academy of Microbiology

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Julius Jackson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Julius Jackson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Julius Jackson describes his mother's family background - part one

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Julius Jackson describes his mother's family background - part two

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Julius Jackson talks about Berea College in Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Julius Jackson describes his maternal family's educational history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Julius Jackson talks about the segregated school system in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Julius Jackson talks about his mother, Julia Esther Jones, and her family's hasty move from Kentucky to Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Julius Jackson describes his father's family background - part one

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Julius Jackson describes his father's family background - part two

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Julius Jackson talks about his paternal grandfather, Virgil Hampton Jackson, and his great-uncle, Clarence Jackson

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Julius Jackson talks about his father's education at Howard University as a pre-med student and his various businesses

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Julius Jackson talks about his relatives from the town of Mexico, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Julius Jackson talks father's employment in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Julius Jackson talks about how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Julius Jackson describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Julius Jackson lists his siblings and talks about growing up near Twelfth Street in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Julius Jackson talks about baseball players in the 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Julius Jackson talks about the baseball player Harry "Suitcase" Simpson

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Julius Jackson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Julius Jackson describes spending a large part of his childhood around his father's shop in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Julius Jackson talks about organized crime in Kansas City, learning how to play the piano and violin, and his father's collection of books

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Julius Jackson talks about his family's non-traditional approach to church, and his own perspectives on church as a social organization - part one

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Julius Jackson talks about his family's non-traditional approach to church, and his own perspectives on church as a social organization - part two

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Julius Jackson talks about starting school at a young age and skipping the first grade

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Julius Jackson talks about the importance of social maturation for a student's success in school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Julius Jackson talks about his desire to become a scientist, and how comic book characters served as his role models

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Julius Jackson talks about his childhood interest in science, books and poetry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Julius Jackson talks about Kansas City, Missouri and integration in the 1950s - part one

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Julius Jackson talks about Kansas City, Missouri and integration in the 1950s- part two

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Julius Jackson describes his experience in junior high school and high school

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Julius Jackson describes his training in mathematics in high school, the importance of learning the fundamentals, and his use of mathematics in biology

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Julius Jackson talks about the teachers who mentored him in school

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Julius Jackson describes his family's financial struggles during the 1950s recession, and the life-lessons that he gained from his community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Julius Jackson describes his experience at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Julius Jackson talks about the people who influenced his decision to return to school

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Julius Jackson talks about developing an interest in biology at Kansas City Junior College, and being diagnosed with hypertension

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Julius Jackson talks about learning Russian at the University of Kansas

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Julius Jackson describes his Ph.D. dissertation on the effect of iron availability on the physiology of Listeria monocytogenes

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Julius Jackson talks about his experience as a postdoctoral researcher at Purdue University, his advisor, Edwin Umbarger, and getting married in 1966

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Julius Jackson talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Julius Jackson describes his experience at Meharry Medical College

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Julius Jackson describes his decision to leave from Meharry Medical College to accept a position at Michigan State University

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Julius Jackson talks about his brief tenure at Clark Atlanta University as the Dean of Arts and Sciences

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Julius Jackson describes his research interest in the evolution of genes and chromosomes

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Julius Jackson talks about applying mathematics to biological studies, and his collaboration with African American mathematicians

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Julius Jackson describes his current work on computationally characterizing the chromosomal composition of bacterial genes

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Julius Jackson provides advice for aspiring scientists

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Julius Jackson describes his role as the director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Julius Jackson describes his service as the director of the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, and talks about parallel mentoring

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Julius Jackson talks about his election to the American Academy of Microbiology, and receiving the William A. Hinton Research Training Award

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Julius Jackson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Julius Jackson reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Julius Jackson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Julius Jackson talks about his children

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Julius Jackson talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$7

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
Julius Jackson describes his research interest in the evolution of genes and chromosomes
Julius Jackson describes his role as the director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation
Transcript
Now, here, at Michigan State [University, East Lansing, Michigan], at some point, you directed the "J Lab?"$$"J Lab," it's just a nickname for my lab.$$Okay.$$"J Lab" is just my lab.$$The Jackson lab?$$The Jackson lab, that's right. And I put together a theoretical computational biology group, and it's a--I grouped together people who can work with me to accomplish a common purpose. And so, I can create a name in a minute. (laughing)$$Okay. You focused what it says here on the study of bacterial and archaeal genomes as information systems that determine the physiological states of an organism?$$Yeah, yeah. What I do here, my work from Purdue [University, West Lafayette, Indiana; postdoctoral work] set me on a path to study genes, silent genes, and in my early studies of silent genes, I'd found that there are genes on a chromosome of bacteria that are there, but they don't express; you don't know they're there unless you know they're there. And I--the curiosity is well, what's behind that, you know, how do you explain their existence and persistence? And that started me down a path of trying to understand where are all the genes that are involved in a physiological function, and how is it that they end up being located where they are, and what are the factors determining whether they're functional or not functional? And that has--that has been a sort of organizing framework for all the studies that I've done. And eventually, I began looking at Meharry [Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee] at the organization of genes on the chromosome, and that's where I began to apply mathematics intensively in looking at arrangements, organization patterns, and in looking--in working at Clark Atlanta [University, Atlanta, Georgia], I was able in the two years I was there to establish a working group with physicists and computer scientists as well as the molecular genetics people in my lab where weekly we would meet to focus our attention on biological and genetic questions and problems and look at how computer science and mathematics could be used to understand these problems better. And over a two-year period, I studied, literally, mathematics of various kinds that I had not prior exposure to and learned to apply these to understanding the information that's available in the chromosomal material and in the genes and to develop concepts of how the--how the information changes over time, so information dynamics, if you will. So what I study to this day is the evolution of genes and chromosomes, and I model--how I use mathematics to model how the information evolves and how to study, how to probe the chromosome and information in the chromosomes to understand how that information evolves. And so, that's what I do now and I reached the point where I stopped doing laboratory experiments, and all of my work now is computational theoretical, so I do things on paper and computers; I no longer go to the laboratory, but I work on models that can be experimentally tested. And I collaborate with people from time to time to accomplish that experimental testing.$Now, '95 (1995) to '97 (1997), you served as Director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation [NSF]--$$Correct.$$--Correct? So, that's basically assessing programs that have potential to be funded by the NSF?$$Yeah. It involves that as the core responsibility. I was brought--invited to come there at the National Science Foundation because there was an increasing awareness of the importance of what we would call microbial biology. There had been insufficient emphasis on the study of micro-organisms. The macro-organisms, the things that you can see, touch, feel, get most attention and funding. But the microbes constitute the basis for life on the planet. And I was asked to come there and help lead an effort to focus research on the microbial world, and that's what I did. So there, we launched programs like studies of organisms and extreme environments and the study of micro-organisms, to understand what is out there, and to look at the variety of micro-organisms that are there and the roles that they play, and this is an outgrowth of microbial ecology; what roles do microbes play in the eco-system of the earth and catalyzing an effort to study more about, and find out what is there, and how do they work. So, in that two and half years or so I was there, I did get a lot of what I went--meant to do done, in fact, I got everything on my list to do, done, plus some, in working with other agencies. And in the process, I directed a division where the program officers would--are the ones who make decisions and recommendations about funding individual grant projects, and those program officers reported to me. And what I did was challenge those program officers to go beyond their usual funding machinations and consider, what are you really funding now? Is this ground-breaking research, or is this something unusual that's going on, or is this the same old thing and is comfortable--a comfortable rut to get into because it's easy, and you can go home and relax? So pushing them to--to look at what you're doing and can we learn more, and is there somebody with real talent in a lesser known place and space who has an idea to contribute to the body of knowledge in ways that none of the standard models apply. Why not give them a chance to get started and identify to me some of those possibilities; it may be risky, but the possibilities. And I'll ask you, why not give them a little boost and let them get started. So, that role as division director was not only just to supervise the ordinary machinations, but to stimulate thinking and stimulate better stewardship of the fields. And, so, it was--it was a exciting experience that had, I think, real impact.